Reality Check: How quickly we forget

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Franklin Morales. The name doesn't do much for you, does it?

Yeah, you've seen his numbers in three starts: the 24-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the steadily increasing innings, the 2.00 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. They're pretty cool.

But come on. He's a converted reliever, a space-filler, a flash in the pan, a hack. Buying into him would be like buying into Josh Collmenter last year, and we all know how that one turned out.

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That's one way of looking at it anyway. Is it yours? Figures ...

No doubt you can get behind someone like Yasmani Grandal, though. Oh yeah, he's really something special. Recalled from Triple-A Tucson just hours earlier, he homered twice Saturday, becoming the first player to homer from both sides of the plate for his first two major-league hits.

It was a big performance -- enough to cause his ownership percentage to rise 18 points, from 9 to 27, with plenty of room to grow from there.

Grandal is a top prospect. He's the kind of player who Fantasy owners stash away for just this day, anticipating his arrival months in advance by deducing, through glowing scouting reports, that he has to be better than the status quo. So naturally, his two home runs were front-page news.

But he wasn't the only recent callup to homer twice over the weekend.

Chris Carter came up to the majors Friday. He homered that night and again Saturday, starting both games at first base for the Athletics.

The performance is just as notable for the home runs as for this: Carter, who Baseball America rated as a top-100 prospect in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and who you may remember from such trades as the one that brought Carlos Quentin to the White Sox in 2007 and the one that brought Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks two weeks later, still exists.

His believers are just about extinct, though. His weekend performance, though not any less impressive than Grandal's, caused his ownership percentage to rise only 3 points, from 3 to 6.

The difference? He was Grandal two years ago. He was the presumed savior stepping in at age 23, and he unceremoniously flopped, spending the last two years bouncing between the majors and minors.

And out of the minds of Fantasy owners.

The point of the illustration isn't to suggest Carter deserves to be owned in just as many leagues as Grandal. Grandal plays the weaker position, after all. He has the assurance of full-time at-bats, at least for now, and the distinction of having not blown it before.

But when comparing the two, does perception really match up with reality? Doesn't Grandal have just as many obstacles in his path as Carter, if not more? He plays at PETCO Park, where fly balls go to die, and while his power is good and all, it's not about to reverse any trends.

Does his ownership rate deserve to rise beyond that of fringy types like Ryan Doumit and A.J. Ellis, as it inevitably will, while Carter's remains in Todd Helton territory? Is declaring a 23-year-old a rising star any fairer than declaring a 25-year-old a lost cause? Do Grandal's nine career at-bats really count for that much? Do Carter's 121?

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Which brings me back to Morales. He's only 26 and, like Carter, was once a favorite of Baseball America, ranking eighth among all prospects in 2008.

Collmenter can't say that.

So why doesn't anyone remember? Well, 2008 was a long time ago, and in the three full seasons since, Morales was nothing but a reliever. He wasn't especially good either.

But here's where his narrative strays from Carter's and why his recent success is immediate cause for excitement: His struggles had a clear explanation.

When he first came up in 2007, he was completely as advertised, averaging 92.5 miles per hour on his fastball while compiling a 3.43 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in eight starts. But then his body began to betray him.

First, it was the lower back pain in 2008 that dropped his average fastball velocity to 90.9 miles per hour. Then, it was the strained shoulder in 2009 that forced him to the bullpen, where he struggled to find his footing in the unfamiliar role. Coors Field magnified those struggles, warping his stats to the point that the Rockies no longer felt comfortable moving him to the starting rotation. So in the bullpen he stayed, confined to a role that never really suited him.

That is, until the Red Sox rotation came down with enough injuries that Morales felt the need to speak up, telling assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann of his desire to start.

"Randy passed the information on to me and the rest is history," manager Bobby Valentine told the Boston Globe on Saturday.

"The rest is history." That's usually something people say when the change is so obviously for the better that they don't intend to go back.

But surely Morales has to go back at some point. Clay Buchholz won't stay on the DL forever. Who else would be the odd man out?

"That's not on my calendar of things to do," Valentine said of removing Morales. "We'll take it one game at a time."

Interesting. So if Morales continues to have success with his mid-90s fastball and full assortment of pitches -- a combination we haven't seen since 2007 -- is it possible he could stay in the rotation over the unreliable Felix Doubront or recovering Daisuke Matsuzaka? Valentine doesn't seem to be ruling it out.

And based on the long-lost potential that Morales has now found, wouldn't you want to take a flier on him just in case? Isn't his trial as a starting pitcher the same as a hot-shot prospect coming up to see if he has what it takes? Aren't you only passing on him because his name isn't Grandal or Trevor Bauer and because he's not all shiny and new?

Sometimes a remix is just as successful, you know.

In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value

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Mat Latos, SP, Reds: Well, that certainly settles that, doesn't it? Just a week ago, Fantasy owners were questioning whether or not to drop Latos. They had given the early-rounder 14 starts to find his form. He hadn't. Time to move on, right? Wrong! Latos got off to a slow start last season as well, compiling a 4.22 ERA through his first 14 starts, so for whatever reason, he seems to need some time to find his form. When he finds it, though, it's something to behold. Over his final 17 starts last season, he compiled a 2.94 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, averaging 8.7 strikeouts to only 2.5 walks per nine innings. With back-to-back complete games and a 18-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last week, he looks like he'll go that route again, only this time it'll be for the first-place Reds rather than the last-place Padres. He's back among the top 25 starting pitchers in Fantasy, so don't even think about selling low on him again.

Ike Davis, 1B, Mets: When news first broke of Davis' valley fever this spring, it was like a death sentence for his sleeper appeal. No matter what sort of positive spin anybody put on it, the discussion always turned to Conor Jackson, who came down with valley fever in 2009 and was basically never heard from again. So naturally, when Davis hit .158 with a .507 OPS over his first 56 games, it seemed too familiar to be a coincidence. But you have to remember what made him a sleeper in the first place. He missed the final five months of last season with a severely sprained ankle, and for a player with less than 1,000 career at-bats, that's a debilitating period of time. Rust could have been as much of a factor as any sort of fungus in the lungs and would explain why Davis is batting .333 with six homers and a 1.133 OPS over his last 19 games. Each of his last six hits have been for extra bases. Does that sound like a sick man to you?

Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Nationals: Speaking of rust, boy do Fantasy owners hate that excuse. Based on some of the e-mails I've gotten, Morse, fresh off a back injury, hadn't even gotten 100 at-bats before his owners were ready to drop him -- a player who hit .317 with 30 home runs over the final five months last season. And while a certain amount of skepticism over a late bloomer is natural, why would you give up on Morse now, after waiting all that time for him, at a point when anything you'd get off the waiver wire would be a roll of the dice at best? Predictably, a series at Coors Field was enough to get his bat going, leading to another big series in Atlanta over the weekend. He's still a homer or two off last year's pace, but the other numbers look about right. Considering how consistent he was over those final five months last year, I'm guessing you won't be tempted to remove him from your lineup again.

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners: Montero's potential was obvious during his 61 at-bats in the majors last year. Of course, his readiness was a little harder to assess. Entering this season, the prevailing thought was it wouldn't matter. He'd be playing enough DH that he'd be in the lineup every day, which would in and of itself give him an advantage over other catcher-eligible players who'd have to sit at least once every five days. But in order for that arrangement to hold, Montero had to produce, and though he hasn't been a disaster at the plate, he's given some indications that, no, he's not quite ready. Specifically, his 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio has accounted for a .286 on-base percentage, which has him sitting more often than expected for on-base specialist John Jaso. Instead of being Victor Martinez, Montero has been Wilin Rosario, only without the hitter-friendly ballpark backing him up. He currently ranks 16th at catcher in both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie, and chances are that's about where he'll stay this year.

Jim Thome, DH, Orioles: At this point in the season, a 41-year-old with only 66 at-bats is probably the last place you'd look for Fantasy production. But with scattered starts at DH during interleague play, Thome hit .333 (12 for 36) with four home runs and a 1.137 OPS, showing he still has plenty left in the tank. The Orioles certainly believe so, trading two lower-level prospects for the veteran slugger. They wouldn't make that move if they didn't intend to give him at-bats. Just to give you an idea what kind of production Thome could provide for you off the waiver wire, despite topping out at 277 at-bats as a platoon player for the Twins and Indians over the last two years, he averaged 20 home runs. Granted, he'll sit too often against lefties to matter in shallower formats, but if you need cheap power, he's an ideal pickup.

Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners

Drew Pomeranz, SP, Rockies: The Rockies recalled Pomeranz from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start Sunday's game against the Padres, which is a good-news, bad-news scenario. The good news is Pomeranz is back on track after posting a 4.70 ERA in his first five major-league starts this year, having corrected the mechanical flaw that developed after his return from an appendectomy last season. He's back to hitting 95 on the radar gun, which is the kind of velocity that made him a top prospect in the first place and the kind he'll need to survive at Coors Field. The bad news is he's now subject to the Rockies' goofy four-man plan and 75-pitch limit, rendering him practically useless in Fantasy and making him a candidate to get sent down for a fresher arm every turn through the rotation.

Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds: So apparently, Cingrani already has this Double-A stuff figured out. After turning heads with a 1.11 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in the heavy-hitting California League, the converted college closer made his presence known in the Southern League Wednesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning en route to a 15-strikeout performance. It was only his fifth start at the Double-A level. The Chris Sale comparisons abound for the 6-foot-4 lefty, and little stands in his way of another promotion to Triple-A in the next week or two. As quickly as he's rising, don't be surprised if the first-place Reds call on him for the stretch run.

Dellin Betances, SP, Yankees: Given the land mine that hit the Yankees starting rotation last week, resulting in a groin strain for CC Sabathia and a broken ankle for Andy Pettitte, you might wonder why top prospect Betances, who already toed the major-league waters last September, wouldn't get the call. His 6.39 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre probably has something to do with it. In an effort to redeem him, the Yankees recently demoted him to Double-A Trenton, where he responded with six shutout innings in his first start Saturday. But control has been his biggest problem -- he issued 8.3 walks per nine innings before his demotion -- and he still walked three in Saturday's game. Right now, the Yankees will have to settle for baby steps from Betances. Despite his 24 years of age, he's far from sniffing the majors again.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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